By Bal Ram Singh, PhD
Brahmacharya is the stage of life when one acquires skills to perform, and the knowledge or gyan to perform and when and where. In other words, skills (kushalta) and knowledge are two different things, although not mutually exclusive. In Bhagavad Gita (BG2.50), it is mentioned, Yogah Karmashu Kaushalam, meaning that yoga is working skillfully.
During a recent visit to the United States in June 2023, PM Narendra Modi highlighted some of India’s efforts in the sphere of technical education. “Under Skill India, we have skilled over 50 million people in the field of artificial intelligence, blockchain, drones and others,” he said.
To maintain growth momentum, India and the US need a pipeline of talent. On one hand, the US has top-class educational institutions & advanced technologies. On the other hand, India has the world’s biggest youth factory. That is why, I believe that the India-US partnership will prove to be the engine of sustainable and inclusive global growth,” PM Modi said.
Many Indians agreed to become indentured laborers during colonial times to escape the widespread poverty and famine in the 19th century. Some travelled alone; others brought their families to settle in the colonies they worked in. The demand for Indian indentured laborers increased dramatically after the abolition of slavery in 1834. They were sent, sometimes in large numbers, to plantation colonies producing high value crops such as sugar in Africa and the Caribbean.
Coming back to the current situation, under which the Indian education system is British, the Indian economic system is Western, and the Indian political system is also a hotchpotch of the European and American system. Under these circumstances, even a honest, hardworking, and a nationalist leader like PM Narendra Modi is offering India as a youth factory to the Americans, and even with a sincere hope to make a mark for India globally in this way.
In an effort to ameliorate the situation to some extent, PM Modi said, “To increase the engagement of scientists & entrepreneurs across the world with Indian institutions, we started GIAN – Global Initiative of Academic Networks – in 2015. I am delighted to tell you that under this, 750 faculty members from the US have come to India.”
A country with its history of knowledge factories, we are not able to send teachers from India to educate the world, we are doing the other way around. Does anyone bother why?
Brahmacharis are not trained and created with a slavish mindset, system, and operation. Let’s look at what the ancient Indian education system has been, even as we take excerpts from a NCERT book of year 2022-23, Ancient Education System of India.
As we understand, the ancient education system of India focused on the holistic development of the students, both inner and outer self, thus preparing them for life. Education was free and not centralized.
Its foundations were laid in the rich cultural traditions of India thereby helping in the development of the physical, intellectual, spiritual and artistic aspects of life holistically. Our present day education system has a lot to learn from the ancient education system of India.
Teachers had complete autonomy in all aspects from selection of students to designing their syllabi. When the teacher was satisfied with the performance of the students, the course concluded. He would admit as many students as he liked and taught what his students were keen to learn. Debate and discussions were the primary methods of teaching. Teachers were assisted by their advanced level students. At that time, knowledge was considered sacred and no fee was charged. Takshashila became famous as a place of learning due to its teachers’ expertise. Among its noted pupils were the legendary Indian grammarian, Panini.
A thorough overhaul of the current education system is needed to bring a learning system for Brahmacharya. At the same time, PM Modi will, in all honesty, will have to take some steps back though. For example, he has anglicized Niti Ayog, when he had changed from Yojana Ayog (Planning Commission), with no English translated name. Ironically, Niti is not referring to the Sanskrit or Hindi word that can be translated as policy, rather it is derived from National Institution for Transforming India (NITI). His government has a fascination with such English acronyms for very traditional and philosophical words, like Diksha and Swayam – part of much-touted NEP 20, Amrut, Ujala, Hriday, Uday, Mudra, etc.
The mindset needs to be addressed in a new initiative for learning to one’s nature, a much-needed idea that will allow India to shed its colonial baggage.
Balram Singh is a Professor and the President of the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, Massachusetts, researching Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedic education, and Vedic social and political traditions. He is also an adjunct faculty at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.